Lemniscomys barbarusBarbary striped grass mouse

Geographic Range

Lemniscomys barbarus is endemic to a narrow coastal zone in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. A few small populations have been found from the base of the Atlas Mountains to the Plateau Central. It has been hypothesized that the current range of L. barbarus was established during the early to mid-Pleistocene. (Carleton and Van Der Straeten, 1997; Lahmam, et al., 2008; Quahbi, et al., 2003; van der Straeten, 2008)


The barbary striped grass mice are found from sea level up to 1000 m. They mainly live in Mediterranean scrublands and woodlands and prefer areas with thick grass and herbaceous ground cover. However, this species has been reported from various nonforested, relatively dry habits along the coastal region of Northwest Africa. In general, barbary striped grass mice can be found in rocky outcrops in vegetated coastal dunes, juniper scrub, argon sage grassland, and argon savanna throughout their geographic range. (Carleton and Van Der Straeten, 1997; Lahmam, et al., 2008; van der Straeten, 2008)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 1000 m
    0.00 to 3280.84 ft

Physical Description

Lemniscomys barbarus is the smallest of member of its genus, with masses ranging from 22 g to 48 g and an average mass of 30 g. Individuals range in body length from 8 to 12 cm and a tail ranging from 10 to 15 cm in length. This species is easily recognized due to its unique pelage, which includes a middorsal longitudinal stripes. The dorsal pelage is brown or oatmeal-colored and has a single dark vertebral stripe, extending from the middle crown to the rump. Flanking this vertebral line on each side are 4 to 5 primary pairs of bold alternating light and dark stripes, and dark stripes are usually wider than the corresponding light stripes. Additionally, the pelage features secondary light lines, particularly evident within the first primary dark stripes. The ventral pelage is white. Lemniscomys barbarus has a narrow and pointed head, usually of the same color as the dorsum. Its ears are large and rounded, covered with hair. (Carleton and Van Der Straeten, 1997; Happold, 1987; Kingdon, 1984; Lahmam, et al., 2008; Shortridge, 1934; Stitou, et al., 1997; "Barbary Striped Grass Mouse (Lemniscomys barbarus)", 2011; "Mouse, Zebra (Lemniscomys barbarus)", 2007; van der Straeten, 2008)

Lemniscomys barbarus has a dental formula of 1/1, 0/0, 0/0, 3/3 = 16. The molars are rooted, strongly lophodont, and appear similar to those of Lemniscomys griselda. The third molar is always smaller than the first and second molars. The skull of L. barbarus is especially robust when compared to congeners. In contrast to other members of g. Lemniscomys, the barbary striped grass mouse has inflated ectotympanic bullae, and similar to other murines, L. barbarus lacks a sphenofrontal foramen and squamosoalisphenoid groove. Sexual dimorphism has not been reported in this species. Lemniscomys barbarus is diploid and has 54 chromosomes. (Carleton and Van Der Straeten, 1997; Happold, 1987; Kingdon, 1984; Lahmam, et al., 2008; Shortridge, 1934; Stitou, et al., 1997; "Barbary Striped Grass Mouse (Lemniscomys barbarus)", 2011; "Mouse, Zebra (Lemniscomys barbarus)", 2007; van der Straeten, 2008)

  • Range mass
    22 to 40 g
    0.78 to 1.41 oz
  • Range length
    18 to 27 cm
    7.09 to 10.63 in


There is no information regarding the mating system of Lemniscomys barbarus.

Male barbary striped grass mice reach sexual maturity at about 10 weeks, while females may take several months longer and may not reproduce up to a year later. Mating season occurs during the warm, wet spring and summer months, with no reproductive activity reported during winter. It has been suggested that reproduction is correlated with season and ambient temperature. Gestation lasts for 21 days, and the average litters consist of 5.5 pups. While the reproductive behavior of this species has not been described in detail, new-borns of the closely related Lemniscomys striatus weigh 3 grams at birth and are covered in short hair. Dorsal stripes are present at birth. Their eyes open around one week after birth, and adult weight is not achieved until 5 months old. Mean birth mass at birth for Lemniscomys rosalia pups, another close relative, is 2.6 grams. Pups are altricial at birth and have fused toes, closed eyes, and folded ear flaps. Young develop quickly, opening their eyes by 9 to 11 after birth and becoming fully furred by day 18. (Kingdon, 1984; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005; "Barbary Striped Grass Mouse (Lemniscomys barbarus)", 2011)

  • Breeding season
    The barbary striped grass mouse breeds during the spring and summer months, with no reproductive activity during the winter months.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    21 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    8 weeks
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    10 weeks

Little information is available regarding parental care in barbary striped grass mice. Females nurse young through 4 pectoral and 4 inguinal mammae until weaning. (Nowak, 1999; Shortridge, 1934)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female


The life expectancy of Lemniscomys barbarus barely exceeds six months in the wild. In contrast, this rodent can live up from 3 to 4.5 years in captivity, with an average life expectancy of 4.4 years. ("AnAge Database", 2011; "Barbary Striped Grass Mouse (Lemniscomys barbarus)", 2011)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    6 months
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 to 4.5 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    4.4 years


Lemniscomys barbarus is a very active, diurnal rodent. Some reports indicate that captive individuals can be crepuscular or exhibit irregular nighttime activity. While small groups can sometimes be found during feeding bouts, L. barbarus does not appear to be highly social. THis species lives in grass burrows or nests, which typically have single, relatively large entrance. In the closely related Lemniscomys griselda, burrows are occupied by a solitary individual, a breeding pair, and possibly their young. The nests of L. griselda are excavated in areas with dense grass cover. There are well-developed runways between burrows and feeding grounds. Lemniscomys barbarus feeds mostly during the evening and early morning. Due to its extensive runway system, Lemniscomys barbarus is rarely found far from its burrow. (Kingdon, 1984; Lahmam, et al., 2008; Shortridge, 1934; Smithers, 1983; van der Straeten, 2008)

Home Range

The home range of Lemniscomys barbarus has not been studied. In the closely related species, Lemniscomys griselda, the home range of males exceeds that of females. (Kingdon, 1984)

Communication and Perception

Consistent with the diurnal activity patterns of this species, Lemniscomys barbarus's eyes contain a relatively large number of cones, the photoreceptors responsible for color vision, in their retinas. Cone-rich retinal structures are relatively rare among contemporary mammalian species. As most mammals are nocturnal, they have rod-dominated retinas. No other information exists regarding communication and perception in this species. Lemniscomys barbarus uses scent marks to demarcate territories and communicate with conspecifics, especially during mating season. (Bobu, et al., 2008)

Food Habits

Lemniscomys barbarus constructs well-defined runways from its burrow or nest to its feeding grounds, where they store small piles of cut grass stems, the staple of its diet. In additino to grass stems, L. barbarus forages on leaves, roots, and fruit as well as crops and seeds. Less commonly, L. barbarus has been known to eat insects. (Shortridge, 1934; Smithers, 1983)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


Diurnal birds of prey such as hawks (Accipitridae and secretary birds (Sagittarius serpentarius reportedly prey on Lemniscomys barbarus. Other predators include genets, mongooses, jackals, small cats, cheetahs, and snakes. To avoid predation, when threatened L. barbarus hurriedly escapes to its burrow. The striped pattern on its dorsal pelage may help camouflage L. barbarus from potential predators and its burrowing nature likely helps minimize risk of predation as well. (Kingdon, 1984; "Mouse, Zebra (Lemniscomys barbarus)", 2007; van der Straeten, 2008)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

The ecological role of Lemniscomys barbarus is not well understood. However, two separate studies suggest that L. barbarus may be a potential host for the parasitic protists, Eimeria telekii and Sarcocystis atheridis. Altough both species can potentially use L. barbarus as a host, this may not be ecologically relevant in the case of E. telekii, as its range does not overlap with that of L. barbarus. A portion of Lemniscomys barbarus's diet consists of seeds. As a result, this species may be an important seed disperser throughout its geographic range. (Slapeta, et al., 2001; Slapeta, et al., 1999)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • parasitic protist (Eimeria telekii)
  • parasitic protist (Sarcocystis atheridis)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Lemniscomys barbarus has been used to study the organization of the suprachiasmatic nuclei and its role in circadian rhythms. This species has also been used to study cone pathophysiology due to its similar diurnal activity pattern to humans. Finally, Lemniscomys barbarus is sometimes kept as a pet. (Bobu, et al., 2008; Lahmam, et al., 2008; van der Straeten, 2008)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Lemniscomys barbarus on humans.

Conservation Status

While natural populations of Lemniscomys barbarus have low densities in certain years, they are fairly abundant in others. Due to the apparent longterm stability of L. barbarus in the wild, it is listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. (van der Straeten, 2008)

Other Comments

The complicated taxonomy of Lemniscomys barbarus has received much attention over the years, leading to a number of reclassificatons. Of particular importance is Carleton and Van der Straeten (1997), who recently split Lemniscomys barbarus into two species, Lemniscomys barbarus and Lemniscomys zebra, on the basis of multivariate morphometrics of skull measurements. They described the former as a species restricted to shrub vegetation along a narrow coastal strip in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, while the latter has a wide-ranging sub-Saharan distribution. This reclassification addressed substantial variation that was apparent within Lemniscomys barbarus. However, more work needs to be done on Lemniscomys zebra, which remains a highly variable taxon. (Carleton and Van Der Straeten, 1997)


Merissa Zeman (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, John Berini (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


active at dawn and dusk


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone

stores or caches food

places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


2011. "AnAge Database" (On-line). AnAge entry for Lemniscomys barbarus. Accessed April 05, 2011 at http://genomics.senescence.info/species/entry.php?species=Lemniscomys_barbarus.

WAZA. 2011. "Barbary Striped Grass Mouse (Lemniscomys barbarus)" (On-line). World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Accessed April 05, 2011 at http://www.waza.org/en/zoo/visit-the-zoo/rodents-and-hares/lemniscomys-barbarus.

Wingham Wildlife Park. 2007. "Mouse, Zebra (Lemniscomys barbarus)" (On-line). Wingham Wildlife Park. Accessed April 03, 2011 at http://www.winghamwildlifepark.co.uk/Article.aspx?ArticleID=459.

Bobu, C., M. Lahmam, P. Vuillez, A. Ouarour, D. Hicks. 2008. Photoreceptor organisation and phenotypic characterization in retinas of two diurnal rodent species: Potential use as experimental animal models for human vision research. Vision Research, 48(3): 424-432.

Carleton, M., E. Van Der Straeten. 1997. Morphological differentiation among Subsaharan and North African populations of the Lemniscomys barbarus complex (Rodentia: Muridae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 110(4): 640-680.

Happold, D. 1987. Mammals of Nigeria. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kingdon, J. 1984. East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa, Volume 2, Part B: Hares and Rodents. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Lahmam, M., A. M'rabet, A. Ouarour, P. Pevet, E. Challet, P. Vuillez. 2008. Daily behavioral rhythmicity and organization of the suprachiasmatic nuclei in the diurnal rodent, Lemniscomys barbarus. Chronobiology International, 25(6): 882-904.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Volume 1. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Quahbi, M., Aberkan, F. Serre. 2003. Recent Quaternary fossil mammals of Chrafate and Ez Zarka. The origin of modern fauna in the Northern Rif (NW Morocco, Northern Africa). Geologica Acta, 1(3): 277-288.

Shortridge, G. 1934. The Mammals of South West Africa. London: Heinemann.

Skinner, J., C. Chimimba. 2005. The Mammals of the Southern African subregion, Third Edition. Singapore: Cambridge Press.

Slapeta, J., D. Modry, B. Koudela. 1999. Sarcocystis atheridis sp. nov., a new sarcosporidian coccidium from Nitsche's bush viper, Atheris nitschei Tornier, 1902, from Uganda. Parasitology Research, 85(8-9): 758-764.

Slapeta, J., D. Modry, J. Votypka, M. Jirku, M. Obornik, J. Lukes, B. Koudela. 2001. Eimeria telekii n.sp. (Apicomplexa: Coccidia) from Lemniscomys striatus (Rodentia: Muridae): morphology, pathology, and phylogeny.. Parasitology, 122(Pt 2): 133-143.

Smithers, R. 1983. Mammals of the South African Sub-region. Pretoria: University of Pretoria.

Stitou, S., M. Burgos, F. Zurita, R. Jimenez, A. Sanchez, R. Diaz de la Guardia. 1997. Recent evolution of NOR-bearing and sex chromosomes of the North African rodent Lemniscomys barbarus. Chromosome Research, 5: 481-485.

Stitou, S., R. Diaz de la Guardia, R. Jimenez, M. Burgos. 1999. Isolation of a species-specific satellite DNA with a novel CENP-B-like box from the North African rodent Lemniscomys barbarus. Experimental Cell Research, 250(2): 381-386.

Stitou, S., R. Jimenez, R. Diaz de la Guardia, M. Burgos. 2000. Sex-chromosome pairing through heterochromatin in the African rodent Lemniscomys barbarus (Rodentia, Muridae). A synaptonemal complex study. Chromosome Research, 8(4): 277-283.

Stoetzel, E., S. Bailon, R. Nespoulet, M. El Hajraoui, C. Denys. 2010. Pleistocene and holocene small vertebrates of El Harhoura 2 cave (Rabat-Temara, Morocco): an annotated preliminary taxonomic list. Historical Biology, 22(1): 303-319.

Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 2005. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Volume 1. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

van der Straeten, E. 2008. "Lemniscomys barbarus" (On-line). Accessed March 13, 2011 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/11487/0.